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Wisconsin roundup: GOP budget stalemate tightens; 10 more state news stories

Wisconsin's budget stalemate grew deeper July 12 as GOP leaders in both houses drew new lines in the sand. File photo

MADISON — Wisconsin's budget stalemate grows deeper as GOP leaders in both houses draw new lines in the sand.

After more negotiations Wednesday, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he would give up on his goal to increase the gas tax or transportation fees to help pay for highway work. But Vos says the Senate should give up its effort to borrow more money for roads, saying that too much gas tax and fee revenue is already being spent to pay for previous debt.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's office says no new borrowing would cause more delays in major state highway projects. Senate Republicans continue to push for about $700 million of highway borrowing, while Gov. Scott Walker has said he'd be willing to go as low as $300 million.


Baldwin has $3.9M in bank, puts challengers on notice

MADISON — U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin puts her Republican challengers on notice, by raising what she calls a statewide record for campaign cash in the off year before a major election.

Baldwin's campaign says it has taken in $4.7 million from January through June, including $2.5 million since March. As of June 30, the Democrat Baldwin has almost $4 million in the bank, and her camp has not said yet who the donors are.

Among the Republicans considering a run against Baldwin next year are 2012 candidate Eric Hovde, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, state lawmakers Leah Vukmir and Dale Kooyenga, and Marine veteran Kevin Nicholson.


Ryan raises millions to ward off early challengers

JANESVILLE  — U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville has $11.1 million in his campaign fund, as he gets ready to face three challengers who've already said they'll run against him next year.

The Ryan camp said Wednesday that he raised $3.4 million from January through June. Democrat Randy Brice said last week that he raised $430,000 in his first two weeks of his campaign. The only other Democrat in the race, Janesville School Board member Cathy Myers, has not said how much she has raised.

Also, Republican Paul Nehlen says he'll run for a second time against Ryan in a primary next August. Candidates have until Saturday to file their latest financial reports with the Federal Elections Commission.


State won’t appeal judge’s order to ease Lincoln Hill punishments

MADISON — The state says it will not try to challenge or delay a federal judge's order to make rapid changes in the way juvenile offenders are punished at Lincoln Hills.

Judge James Peterson has told the corrections department to limit solitary confinements to seven days instead of the present 60 days or longer at the state boys' and girls' institutions in Lincoln County. The judge also said pepper spray should only be used when inmates show the potential for causing harm — and he wants both new policies in place by July 21.

Media reports cite a memo in which juvenile corrections' administrator John Paquin said it would take a lot of work to meet the court's deadlines, but "leadership and staff can successfully rise to the challenge." The judge's ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed by inmates and civil rights' groups opposing solitary confinements and pepper spray at the teen facilities.


Suspect in custody for shooting death of 3-year-old

RACINE — Racine Police say they've arrested a suspect for the shooting death of a 3-year-old boy.

Officials say the youngster was killed Wednesday in a duplex, after being shot in the chest from a bullet fired inside the home. Police have not identified the victim but the Racine Journal Times says he's Jeremiah Pitts, and state officers have been called in to help Racine Police investigate.


Fatal Dodge County crash still investigated

BEAVER DAM — Dodge County sheriff's deputies continue to investigate the crash of a semi-trailer and a pickup that killed a 43-year-old woman.

Officials say Jessica Miller of Evansdale, Iowa died after riding in the pickup that hit the rear of the semi Tuesday on the northbound Highway 151 expressway near Beaver Dam. Officers say the pickup truck was towing a trailer with a race car inside — and it swerved but could not avoid hitting the semi. Neither driver was injured, and deputies say they're trying to find out what may have caused the mishap.


Appeals court upholds state ‘right to work’ law

CHICAGO — Wisconsin's 2-year-old right to work law has been upheld in a federal appeals court.

A three judge panel from the Seventh Circuit Court in Chicago ruled unanimously Wednesday against two local engineers' unions who said the law was unconstitutional because it barred them from collecting payments from non-union employees who get the same benefits that a union seeks for its dues paying members. Federal Judge JP Stadtmueller of Milwaukee ruled against the unions last year, saying the appeals court upheld a similar law from Indiana in 2014.

On Wednesday, the court said there's "no compelling reason" to revisit the case. State Attorney General Brad Schimel praised the decision, saying the Constitution does not "protect a union's right to take money from non union members."


Does baseball still need to ‘Bless America’?

At a time when Major League Baseball is trying to speed up its play, some fans question whether "God Bless America" needs to be sung at the seventh inning stretch.

It was baseball's response to a patriotic wave after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, and it was sung at every game. One year later, Commissioner Bud Selig gave teams discretion on when to sing it — and the Milwaukee Brewers now do it only on Sundays and holidays.

A Texas Rangers' official tells the Fort Worth Star Telegram that fans who only see weekday games ask why "God Bless America" is no longer sung, while weekend crowds ask why it's not dropped. Selig owned the Brewers in 2001, and he ordered the entire five minute Kate Smith version for every game at Miller Park. The team later shortened it — and for the past few years, retired Air Force Lt. Bob Kozlowski of the Brewers' guest relations department has sung it live.


Coast Guard gets more fake distress calls on Lake Michigan

MILWAUKEE — The U.S. Coast Guard says it's getting a lot more false alarms from callers reporting fake emergencies on Lake Michigan.

Milwaukee Cmdr.Leanne Lusk says about 300 calls for help have been made on Lake Michigan this year, mostly in the larger population areas of Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha. About half are thought to be fake.

Lusk says it costs $400 an hour for a boat rescue, and 16,000 for each hour a rescue chopper flies. Lusk reminds citizens that it's a felony to make false alarms to the Coast Guard, and parents are responsible when their children who don't know the consequences of their actions make fake calls. She says that happens in about 30 percent of all such cases.


Not guilty pleas to newest sex charges for expelled UW-Madison student

MADISON — A judge has entered not guilty pleas for an expelled UW-Madison student from Edina, Minnesota who’s accused of molesting 11 women on the campus.

Twenty-one-year-old Alec Cook stood mute at his arraignment on counts of false imprisonment and disorderly conduct, the newest of 23 charges, filed after the 11th reported victim came forward. According to the latest complaint, Cook occasionally stared at a female student before trapping her in a dorm basement in 2014, seven months before alleged incidents that included sexual assaults against ten other Madison women. Cook remains free on a $100,000  bond, living with his parents in his home town of Edina.


Deadline approaching for May tornado disaster loans

EAU CLAIRE — The deadline is approaching to apply for loans to deal with tornado damage that tore through Barron and Rusk counties this spring.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is accepting applications for low-interest disaster loans until August 11th. Businesses, private nonprofits, homeowners, and renters in Barron and Rusk counties as well as adjacent counties can apply.